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Car Review Time!
Two years ago today, I traded in my disappointingly falling-apart-at-61K-miles 2009 WRX on a 2012 Mazda 3 S Touring 5-door in Crystal White Pearl Mica equipped with the 2.5L MZR engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. I was not looking forward to the 100 horsepower difference between the two cars, but as a trade-off, I had high hopes for better dependability and better gas mileage for my long daily commute. I wanted something that was still going to be fun to drive, and I wanted a few creature comforts like Bluetooth, a decent stereo, and a moon roof, and I was familiar with the 3 because my wife had bought a 2010 sedan earlier in the year.
I narrowed down the playing field to three cars in that segment: the 2012 Focus, the 2012 Civic Si sedan, and the 2012 Mazda 3. I couldn't stand late model Toyotas, I didn't like the Chevy Cruze's styling at all, we just came off a really bad experience with a Hyundai Elantra so they were out, and I had already gone down the path of disappointment with a VW 10 years earlier and wasn't ready to switch to a diesel.
The 2012 Focus was initially not available with many creature comforts if you wanted a stick, and I hated the Power Shift automatic after test driving a Fiesta with the transmission when my wife was car shopping. They later corrected this by offering a SE Sport package, but when I was shopping, it wasn't available yet.
The Civic Si was my main benchmark. A friend had one, and after driving it, I wanted one. Unfortunately, the 2012 Civic Si was backordered due to the Japanese Tsunami, and the few that trickled in were marked up because of "adjusted market value". I would have considered a 2011, but there were none left on any local dealer lots. Used and abused ones were going for the price the new ones were supposed to be.
I also considered the Mazdaspeed 3. I really wanted one, but I decided against it because I wanted something simple to maintain and something that took cheap gas for once after diving two WRX's for the past 6 years.
So, two years later, here I am with my 3. The car has nearly 51,000 miles on the clock now . How has it held up?
-The car has been very reliable. It starts every day and gets me to where I need to go. I bought a set of snow tires on steel wheels early on, and the car is great in the winter with them, rivaling the snow traction of my WRX's. AWD is nice, but you don't need it.
-Gas mileage and general cost of running this car has been better than expected. My lifetime MPG average is around 27.4 mpg, and the car is rated 20 city/28 highway. I've gotten upwards of 33 MPG a few times on long trips. The worst I've gotten was 23, and that was over last winter after getting hit by a blizzard, and my car was idling to charge my cell phone as well as to melt some of the snow while clearing the driveway. Not as good as the Skyactiv cars, but better than my one time best of 25 MPG in the WRX.
-Maintenance has been VERY simple and cheap so far. Oil changes are due every 7500 miles running 0W20 Mobil 1 synthetic. There's no stupid splash shields in the way to remove; they have holes in the shield for oil filter access. It hasn't burned a drop of oil. I've done an air filter and the cabin air filters, and those were pretty easy.
-It still handles great. I want to say that it handles better than my 2009 WRX did, even with it's fatter wheels (I was running 17x8's with 245/40/17's) and larger rear bar. It's way more tossable, and the steering feel is great. The car is still very fun to drive. I may make it to an autocross event next season with it if my CSX isn't ready yet. It's a blast to drive in the twisties, and probably the best handling and most balanced FWD car I've driven.
-The factory shifter is worlds better than the WRX was, even after I upgraded it with a Kartboy setup with all the poly bushings. I did upgrade the rear engine mount to a solid polyurethane Torque Solutions mount, which makes shifting even better, but it rattles your teeth a bit. I may remove it.
-The stereo sounds great and the Bluetooth rules. I won't buy a daily driver without it here on out. Streaming music from my phone is cool, and hands-free talking is a lot less distracting.
-The interior is a lot nicer than the one out of either one of my WRX's. The dash is not all hard plastic, and the gauges are decent. The info display on the dash and many of the controls are driver-oriented, which I like. Mine has small blue LED's here and there that light up at night and illuminate certain areas on the car, such as one on the ceiling that illuminates the shifter and console, which is a subtle and cool touch. I really like the sliding center armrest, which lets you shift with your fingertips when resting your arm on it.
-I actually like the looks. I've surprisingly gotten many compliments from complete strangers on the car. The 2012 models have a revised front fascia that negates a bit of the goofiness of the 2010-11 cars. My wife's car looks like it's a buck-toothed cartoon character wearing braces. Mine? Not as much. And the Crystal White Pearl Mica color looks awesome. It was my first non-silver car in a long time, and I think I made the right choice. I even like the funky directional wheels. See?
-It's still an econobox. I like the interior, but it's developed some rattles over the past two years. I will say that the WRX was more rattly at 20k than this car is at 50K+.
-The seats could be a little more comfortable. The driver's seat has something going on with it where it clunks a bit going around some corners, but I can't find the source. My wife's car does it too. The bolts are tight, so I have no clue.
-The steering wheel could be better. I think the diameter is perfect, but the thickness of the rim could be a bit more, and could use hand grips like most other sporty cars have. I mean, come on Mazda: if a 1990's Cavalier can have a 3-spoke wheel with hand grips, you guys could do it on this car.
-The clutch and transmission. This is a common complaint on these cars. The clutch action is light, which is fine, but it's almost digital in engagement. I'm used to it now, but I remember it taking a few weeks to nail it down. The transmission has an intermittent problem grinding from 1st to 2nd, and from what I read, it could be resolved by changing the transmission fluid. It started doing it around 35K or so, but I've noticed that if I shift slower, it doesn't happen as much. The fluid's getting changed before winter.
-The stock Yokohama Avid S04 (or whatever they are) tires are terrible. This can be said for just about any car though, so I really can't hold this against it. I can't wait to put better tires on the car.
-I wish I could hear the engine more. It's a cool sounding engine, and I wish they made it so you could hear it a bit like you can on other sporty econocars like the Civic Si.
Overall, I still feel like I made the right choice. Yes, I'd buy another one, but I'd probably sacrifice the 10hp and get the Skyactiv version. It's been a great car, and although not perfect, it has surpassed my expectations. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a cheap to maintain and fun to drive econobox.
C/N: 2012 Mazda 3's are good cars.
I was not looking forward to the 100 horsepower difference between the two cars............. I'd buy another one, but I'd probably sacrifice the 10hp and get the Skyactiv version.
I'm as pro-HP as the next guy but i enjoy seeing people have these moments. I dont think each car has to be enjoyed the SAME way and when we're honest about the way we enjoy an individual car you run across stuff like this.. Sometimes you ARE willing to trade 10 or even 110hp for other attributes.
The only mazda3 i've owned was an 04 2.0 i inherited with my relationship to my partner and after doing a little digging i quickly realized it seemed like it was the best option anyway. The larger engine was more powerful but disproportionately less efficient, and it turns out the efficiency of that car was one of the major things i enjoyed about it (although i did like other things like the styling, interior, handling, etc). Now with the skyactiv 2.0 i think the choice would be even clearer if i were to buy another one.
SilverFleet wrote: -The stereo sounds great and the Bluetooth rules. I won't buy a daily driver without it here on out. Streaming music from my phone is cool, and hands-free talking is a lot less distracting. -The seats could be a little more comfortable. The driver's seat has something going on with it where it clunks a bit going around some corners, but I can't find the source. My wife's car does it too. The bolts are tight, so I have no clue. C/N: 2012 Mazda 3's are good cars.
After having a month with bluetooth I 200% agree, talking on the phone and driving became less frantic and more attentive. Plus people thought you were talking to yourself in the car which I found amusing.
my driver seat in the mazda2 will do the same thing if i corner hard enough. Hard right hand turn the back left of the seat will clunk like that.
Vigo wrote:I was not looking forward to the 100 horsepower difference between the two cars............. I'd buy another one, but I'd probably sacrifice the 10hp and get the Skyactiv version.I'm as pro-HP as the next guy but i enjoy seeing people have these moments. I dont think each car has to be enjoyed the SAME way and when we're honest about the way we enjoy an individual car you run across stuff like this.. Sometimes you ARE willing to trade 10 or even 110hp for other attributes. The only mazda3 i've owned was an 04 2.0 i inherited with my relationship to my partner and after doing a little digging i quickly realized it seemed like it was the best option anyway. The larger engine was more powerful but disproportionately less efficient, and it turns out the efficiency of that car was one of the major things i enjoyed about it (although i did like other things like the styling, interior, handling, etc). Now with the skyactiv 2.0 i think the choice would be even clearer if i were to buy another one.
The only reason I didn't get the Skyactiv 3 is because of the timing of my purchase. When I was car shopping, the WRX was on a downward spiral. It was beginning to have issues with the clutch and transmission, and even though I ponied up the extra cash for the fancy Subaru Gold Plus bumper to bumper warranty, they didn't want to cover anything unless I opted for a $1200 inspection of the clutch system and transmission. If they found issues, I would be reimbursed, and if not, I'd be out the money. From previous dealings with Subaru, I knew better than hand them all that money, because I'd never see it again. F that!
With that, I hit up that TrueCar website for the hell of it, input my info, and started getting inundated with emails and phone calls. I got one call from a small local dealer with a good offer and 0% financing, and I went down to check out a leftover 2011 S Sport 5-door they had. When I got there, they had that and a 2011 MS3, both in red. I was really looking for a white one, as I saw one in white one time taking the wife's 3 for service at another dealer and it reminded me of my old white '89 Maxima SE that I loved.
The Sales Manager (and only person on the sales staff, actually) looked on his computer and noticed that the 0% deal was also valid for the 2012's. He only had one, and it was dark blue with a tan interior, no thanks. He threw me the keys and I took it out and decided it would fit the bill if they could get the right color. The issue is that the car had to be in the dealer network and sold by September 30th to get the 0% deal. He found me a car at another dealer in CT that he said he could get me with some finagling. After some negotiating on the trade-in of the WRX, I went ahead and had them get the car and I signed on it. All I could think of was this GIF:
At the time, the Skyactiv cars didn't have a release date. They did come out about a month later, but I would have had to get regular financing and would have actually spent more on it. Plus, I wanted fog lights, the moon roof, etc, which were all extra. On the 2012 S Touring, those all come standard.
Having fun with a car is not just about raw speed. The WRX was fun because of that, but this thing is actually more fun to drive in a lot of ways. As far as power goes, when compared to a Mazda 2, which I drove last weekend for the 1st time, this thing feels like a Hemi Dart.
How is the rust issue on the newer models? The only reason I would shy away from buying this car is all the rust issues as I like to keep my cars for a while.
sanman wrote: How is the rust issue on the newer models? The only reason I would shy away from buying this car is all the rust issues as I like to keep my cars for a while.
I was under my wife's 80,000+ mile 2010 3 sedan a few weeks back doing an oil change, and there was no visible rust anywhere, other than the usual surface crud that develops on pretty much all cars. There's no body rust to speak of. With any car, I make sure that I clean the wheel wells and all the little crevices really well when I wash it.
The only PITA issue her car has had was the TPMS sensors failing due to corrosion. She has replaced 3 out of 4 of her OEM ones because they have corroded and broke apart while driving. I guess they had issues with these on Fords of that vintage as well, so again, I blame crappy Ford parts. Mine hasn't had these issues, but then again, I don't run my stock wheels in the winter, either.
I'm about 9k miles into a 2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv hatch with the auto trans. Bought it for my wife mainly, who doesn't drive stick, but it has been a lot of fun overall. The auto trans works well and seems to "read my mind" much better than the older ones I've experienced. No problems with the car whatsoever, and got the 0% financing deal with some discounts so it has been nice after years of driving cars that need frequent maintenance/repairs. Our overall MPG is right around 30, but we take almost exclusively short trips in the city with lots of hills and traffic. If not for a few road trips our average would be even lower.
I imagine the 2.5 Skyactiv would be even nicer, but for a tossable daily driver the 2.0 is fine and we have no regrets. Previous DD was an auto Forester XT...engine went boom so I just ditched the thing. No time to fix it myself and not worth it to pay a shop. Plus the 4 speed auto was pretty awful...do not miss that.
I'm 16k miles into my 2012 mazda3 Skyactiv. No complaints. Lifetime fuel economy average is 32. Mostly in town. A few long trips. Handles great with real tires (like any car). Brakes finally feel good. First couple of months they worked like E36 M3. They've gotten better though.
I've always liked the brakes on this car. The 2.5 S hatchback models get bigger brakes than the Skyactiv and sedans. Not looking forward to them moaning when I back up though, I have to replace them soon and my wife's car does that along with just about everyone else's Mazdas.
This week marks my 3rd year with the car. As it sits, it has a hair under 75k miles on it.
In the past year, it has been a little needy:
-Last fall, I installed a Torque Solution rear engine mount to make the car feel more sporty. It did! However, it also caused some NVH that was too much for a car that sits idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I re-installed the original mount. After doing so, I started hearing squeaky noises coming from the transmission mount. I probably couldn't hear them with the NVH before, but yeah, the mount is toast. It gets worse by the week. I really need to fix that. If anyone wants to buy that mount, let me know!
-I broke down and bought new tires for the 3-season wheels. I picked the Kumho Ecsta PA31's because of their high treadwear and cheap price. So far, so good, 10k miles in.
-My average MPG has dropped significantly, mostly due to the BRUTAL traffic around here in the past year. I am down to 26.691 lifetime. I really wish it was a SkyActiv engine. My high for the last year was 29.3, while my low was 23.6.
-Did a tune-up this year at 60k. That consisted of 4 NGK spark plugs (about $10), looking at the air filter (still fine), and about 20 minutes of my time. I need to do some fluid flushes before the winter.
-That clunky driver's seat? Yeah, fixed that, but only after it broke. These seats attach to the rails by push washers, and they get loose and fall off. Once they do, the seats twist around all over the place. A weld that holds the pin bracket that attaches to the rail snapped, so it got welded back together and a metal washer was welded on instead of the push washer. No more sliding and clunking, and 100% more enjoyable to drive.
-I was going to do a plug-and-play HID kit for the projector housings, but I remembered that when I did this on my 2009 WRX, it was less than impressive. So I did what I did after I blew a ballast on that old WRX kit: I installed better bulbs, specifically H9's instead of the stock H11's. H9's are meant to be a high beam, but on most projector-equipped cars you can get away with it as long as the refractors don't blind people. I aimed the lights better and the lights rule now. And it was under $20!
-I did the brakes. I went with cheap Centric rotors and StopTech Street Performance pads (under $200 shipped from RockAuto). I've had them on for about 10k miles, and the jury is still out. I have a vibration on deceleration from highway speeds, but I cannot tell if it is the brakes or that busted transmission mount. And the pads dust like a mofo. No rear squealing on my car, but my wife's 3 still does.
-I fixed one of the major rattles the car had! The cargo tray left the factory on late 2011/early 2012 cars with felt pads installed on only one side where it rests on the plastic rear trim. An $0.89 sheet of adhesive backed felt from a craft store fixed that problem. I love stupid fixes like that.
-Transmission still grinds occasionally from 1st to 2nd, even after a tranny oil change. Since the transmission mount is busted, I bet it has something to do with that. It really only does it when the motor is under heavy load and the engine/tranny would be pitched under acceleration.
-Looking out for rust to rear its ugly head, but the only spots I see any evidence of it are on the door hinges. Otherwise, all sheet metal is rust free and I am working to keep it that way!
Overall, I still like the car. It is starting to get that "old friend" feel now 3 years in. After I make a few repairs, it should be good for another 50k without any major services. Two more years to go on my loan and it's paid off!
I'm coming up on two years, 20k miles on the 2012 Skyactiv hatch. No issues yet, did two track days in bone stock form which was entertaining. Looking to get some better tires now before winter, leaning Comti DWS. Very happy with this buy. I would have preferred the 2.5 Skyactiv but that wasn't available until the new gen cars.
In reply to turtl631:
About a month after I bought my car, I received a survey email from Mazda. for once, I actually did the survey. In there, they asked about ways to make the regular Mazda 3 (not the Mazdaspeed) better. I said that the car needed about 20 more HP and to make it a tad lighter and get better gas mileage and it would be a fun daily driver. Looks like they listened for the 2014 cars.
My 2013 MS3 had a "kind of" grindy 2nd-1st shift if you didn't perfectly rev-match it. Added a burly RMM and now no grind any of the time. Also, when I first installed the RMM it vibrated badly, but now it's broken in and doesn't nearly as bad. Not sure how long you had the RMM on for.
I used this one from CP-E http://cp-e.com/webstore/product/mazdaspeed3-xflex-rear-motor-mount-stage2/
accordionfolder wrote: My 2013 MS3 had a "kind of" grindy 2nd-1st shift if you didn't perfectly rev-match it. Added a burly RMM and now no grind any of the time. Also, when I first installed the RMM it vibrated badly, but now it's broken in and doesn't nearly as bad. Not sure how long you had the RMM on for. I used this one from CP-E http://cp-e.com/webstore/product/mazdaspeed3-xflex-rear-motor-mount-stage2/
Mine is this guy:
It has an 80dm bushing, and as you can see, it is beefy! I had it in there for about 6-8 months, I believe. It got a little quieter as it broke in, but not much. Then again, that could be because my transmission mount was shredded and it was just vibrating everything.
At first, the shifts were better, but as time went on, the issue returned (again, transmission mount related?). It only does it from 1st to 2nd, and that's it.
If no one buys it, maybe I'll re-install it when I do the new transmission mount and see what happens.
I have also read about the CorkSport Transmission Mount Inserts helping out a bit too with keeping things where they are supposed to be:
I just don't know if I want a car that rattles my damn teeth in traffic.
I worked at a Mazda dealer between 2010 and 2013 and had lots of chance to play around with these cars in all different forms. And I have owned my 2006 wrx since early 2011 so I can compare to you. The 2.5 is really quick but people around here say they get low 20s mpg at best. The 2.0 was really slow but the new skyactic cars were great. The 2.0skyactive is a great motor and probably what I would have in the 3. The sky 2.5 is a bit slower than the old 2.5 but is suppose to get way better mileage and is still pretty quick. The autos in the skyactive cars were actually really good but of course the manuals were what I'd choose if given a choice Shifter in all MT mazdas feels great. My WRX shifter is garabage too lol
The cars seemed to hold up really well and didn't lose too much value. The 2.5 non sky cars were tough to sell in 2012 once the sky cars hit. There was a twisty road near the dealer that was about 4.5 miles round trip (including the twistys)from the lot and they were good handling cars. The 2.5 had 17in tires that were 45 tall which had way less tire roll over the cars that came with 16s. Plus the power of the old 2.5 was great back there. The skyactive cars had good power but seemed down on throttle response from the non sky cars.
I don't think I could own one but thats probably because of how many i've been in. They are great cars for what they are though.
In reply to ouchx100:
While I wouldn't call this car "fast", it is faster than my wife's 2010 Mazda 3 i Touring with the 2.0L/5AT.
When I was shopping for this car, my benchmark was the 2007-12 Honda Civic Si. the 2.5L Mazda 3 nearly matched it on paper performance-wise. It was a little bit heavier and didn't have the LSD, but in trade it took regular gas, came in a 5-door hatch form, had better headlights, a better stock stereo with Bluetooth, and takes regular 87 octane unleaded. They both run mid-15's in the 1/4 mile, do the 0-60 in the 7's, and their braking and handling numbers match up. I still think it handles better than my 2009 WRX, which is absurd. It's a daily driver though, not a race car. It's never been tracked or raced.
In one month I will be three years into the ownership of my 2012 mazda5. Also a 2.5/6spd, the trans was rebuilt under warranty at 53,000. I had complained that it acted like the clutch was hanging on the 1-2 shift but of course they could never duplicate it. First and second gears and synchros were replaced. It now has 95,000 miles in it and the 2nd gear grind is back; I even changed the fluid again at 86,000 but to no avail. I love this car/van/wagon thingy.
I lowered it with H&R springs on the stock strut / shocks at 24,000 miles, just replaced the stock rears at 87,000 miles (have the fronts just haven't had time) and installed a JBR RSB and a JBR shift plate at 24,000 miles. I still am not used to the clutch it seems as if the take up is a different place each time you drive it. The interior has worn well and the exterior doesn't show it's almost 100,000 hard miles; there are some rock chips on the roof that are starting to corrode. I'll fix that in the spring. Lifetime fuel average is 28.5!
Edit: as for brakes, I replaced all the rotors and pads at 80,000 with a kit from powerstop. They are excellent!
Regarding those Centric rotors, I had similar issues with Centrics purchased around that time on my Mini and Miata. On the Mini, I tried them with the Stop Tech pads originally, then removed the rotors and had them machined and replaced with Axxis/PBR Ultimates. The rotors warped again....
In reply to amg_rx7:
Good to know. I put the same setup on my 2009 WRX and they did the same thing. I thought I had a bent wheel. Of course, this was at the time when I got fed up with the car and traded it in without troubleshooting it. I will go with different stuff next time I do brakes.
Vigo wrote:I was not looking forward to the 100 horsepower difference between the two cars............. I'd buy another one, but I'd probably sacrifice the 10hp and get the Skyactiv version.I'm as pro-HP as the next guy but i enjoy seeing people have these moments. I dont think each car has to be enjoyed the SAME way and when we're honest about the way we enjoy an individual car you run across stuff like this.. Sometimes you ARE willing to trade 10 or even 110hp for other attributes.
I went from a Stage 1 02 WRX with a full TBE and up-pipe (I could run Stage 2 if I wanted to, but I didn't), to a 115Hp 03 VW Golf! I probably dropped close to 150Hp.
I miss the power sometimes but the Golf has a "zippiness" to it, that I enjoy. This is partly due to the gearing of the Golf. I also like the fact that I get 25-30 mpg in town and 35-40 on the highway.
When I was shopping and ultimately bought the Golf, every 3 I looked at (03-07) had chronic rust, so I stayed away from them.
I test drove an 06 Mazda 3 and a 10 Mazda 3. I liked the 06 better because the interior is nicer, maybe I liked the seats better, too. The throttle response is better in the first gen too. The 10 was an auto, so there was no way I was going to buy that one. I was maybe $500 to short to buy the 06 one. The only FWD car I like better so far is the Jetta TDI; they handle just as good, and you can't beat 40+ mpg. I haven't drove the new Focus or Fiesta ST's yet.
Have you had any issues with the alignment?
I have 28,000 miles on a 2012 Skyactiv hatch and the tires are making a lot of noise after the last rotation, like they might be worn funny or something.
Otherwise I'm averaging 33mpg at an average speed of 31 mph (ugh). Traffic has been brutal here too (Chicago suburbs).
In reply to slowride:
I have seen some interesting tire wear on my car. When I brought the car into get the tires done about 10k ago, the tire guy I always go to said that a lot of the FWD Mazdas since the early 2000's wear more on the inside of the tire. He said it has something to do with the strut design and that they are set up for aggressive alignment from the factory. He said that pretty much the only way to get rid of that was to either run camber plates or aftermarket stuff. FWIW, my wife's 2010 3i Touring is doing the same thing.
Another year later...
It's been 4 years since I bought the 3. It currently sits at almost 98K miles. I feel like I bought it yesterday... wow. One year left until it's paid for!
-I still haven't fixed the motor/transmission mounts. They are getting really bad. That's on my list for before the winter. At this point, I'm probably just going to replace all of them.
-Brake vibration is still there, but lately it has gotten a lot worse. Those are getting swapped out in a few weeks as well.
-Driver's seat that broke previously is now squeaking. It is annoying, so I'll have to address that. NBD.
-The driver's rear suspension has developed a clunk/squeak lately. It may be time for new suspension sooner than later.
-It's almost time for tires again. The Kumhos have nearly 40K on them, and for a cheap tire, they did their job. They were on the car all last winter, too. My wife's car needed my snows, so I had to drive through the worst New England winter in recorded history on these. I never got stuck!
-Engine and transmission are doing great! Engine does not burn or leak anything, and the transmission doesn't seem to grind into 2nd nearly as much anymore. Car still pulls like it always did, and I'm getting around 27MPG/tank these days. Not on par with the newer crop of econoboxes, but that's fine.
-Still no major rust, except for a little bit on the door hinges and a couple of chips in the roof from last winter's onslaught of frozen Hell. I addressed the chips earlier this year, but I will keep an eye out. I am also watching those rear wheel arches like a hawk. At this point, every single 1st gen 3 I see has rotting rear wheel wells. i still haven't seen a 2nd gen car with rust like that.
Quick update on the wife's 2010 Mazda 3 i Touring:
-Hers is at 120K+ now. In the past year, her transmission oil pan rotted out completely and vomited all over the driveway. And her driver's seat broke exactly like mine did. Both were simple fixes. Hers actually drives BETTER than mine does!
As much as I want to get a new car, I fight off the urges, because this one is nearly paid for. This Mazda has been great to me, and I'll keep going until it quits. I've never had a daily driver for this long, so I'm interested to see how far it will go!
My 2004 was a great car, at 80k miles when is old it the only issue I'd had was a dead thermostat and a hole in my knee from the dash rubbing it...
seriously, does the dash hit your knee? (that hard corner by the radio)...
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